After the 2006 congressional elections, when the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was announced, Democrats crowed that the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, had forced George W. Bush to get rid of Rumsfeld. It was claimed by many that Pelosi had, in a post-election meeting with Bush, forced Bush to decide between getting rid of Rumsfeld and being impeached. It was cited as proof of what the Democratic majority in Congress could do.
Now we know that’s not how it happened. Recently discovered White House documents, confirmed as correct by the White House, indicate that Rumsfeld actually submitted his letter of resignation the day before Election Day 2006, not after the meeting between Pelosi and Bush as had been previously believed.
Maybe Rumsfeld had been convinced by the clear prospect of a Democratic majority to resign, but it wasn’t the Democratic majority itself that forced Rumsfeld out of office. As much as some Democrats might wish it to be so, there was no threat of impeachment after the election by Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi had voluntarily given up that tool of political pressure against the President long before then.
We now see the consequences of Pelosi’s blunder. If she had kept impeachment on the table, she might have been able to pressure President Bush or the Republicans in Congress to make real changes. With impeachment off the table, however, we get an escalation of the military occupation of Iraq instead of an end to it, and we get the Democratic majority in Congress helping Bush to get terrible legislation like the Protect America Act passed.
The Democrats in Congress have not done what they were elected to do, and it’s because the Democratic leadership has laid down its constitutionally-established powers to hold the President to account, while George W. Bush increases the power of the presidency.
All around the country, the Democratic Party is organizing receptions for their people in Congress for this month, to reassure them that they’re still well-liked. Let me speak for myself: My confidence in the congressional Democrats is rapidly shrinking.